The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins matchup on Sunday night resembled more of a showdown between their AHL affiliates, the Hartford WolfPack and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins.
The Rangers, in either case, don’t mind, as their understudies took home a 3-2 win over the Penguins, gaining a little bit of momentum for the upcoming playoffs, which open Wednesday night.
The Rangers (48-28-6) sat several regulars, as Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, Jesper Fast, and Brendan Smith all sat out, whereas Pittsburgh rested Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Ian Cole, Conor Sheary, amongst others, sat out. The regulars who did play managed to get on the scoresheet, as Ryan McDonagh, playing in his first game after a five game absence, opened the Rangers scoring, tying it 1-1 after Nick Bonino put Pittsburgh ahead early. Derek Stepan gave the Rangers the lead with a power play goal, putting them up 2-1 after 20 minutes.
The Penguins (50-21-11) would tie up the game in the middle frame, as Carter Rowney scored his third of the season, but another youngster, though also a regular, scored for the Rangers, who took the lead for good via a goal by Jimmy Vesey The Rangers defense held Pittsburgh off the rest of the way, and they earned the victory on a night of celebration. Prior to the game, Mats Zuccarello was honored with his third Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, presented by the late NYPD hero’s wife Patti and son Conor. Afterwards, the Rangers partook in the Blueshirts Off Our Backs program, the yearly tradition of gifting their game-worn jerseys to season ticket holders.
In a battle of goalies making their first NHL starts, Magnus Hellberg earned his first NHL win, subbing for an injured Antti Raanta, who is slated to be ready for the playoffs. Hellberg, maker of 22 saves, outdueled Tristian Jarry of Pittsburgh, who also made 22 stops.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490